Veteran transforms his life after a parachuting accident

This year’s guest speaker at the Army Run Pasta Dinner is none other than the inspirational Dr. Steve Daniel, a veteran who transformed his life after a parachuting accident left him paralyzed.

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Daniel joined the CAF as a teenager serving with 1st and 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. During his fourteen years with The Royal Canadian Regiment, he completed four tours to various places around the world including Croatia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. Daniel was the chief parachute instructor at 3 RCR in Petawawa. However, on June 30, 2005, during a routine free-fall jump, Daniel was unable to slow his decent and crash landed. He fractured his tailbone and became paralyzed from the waist down.

What makes Daniel an especially significant speaker for the Pasta Dinner is his own connection with Soldier On, one of the organizations the Army Run raises funds for. While adapting to his life after the accident, Daniel was introduced to Soldier On through a former colleague. Soon, Daniel entered the world of adaptive sports and began adaptive rowing. Naturally athletically talented, Daniel made great strides in adaptive rowing and won gold at the 2008 Canadian Indoor Rowing Championship. As a member of the Canadian National Adaptive Rowing team, he placed 11th in the world in the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Athletics isn’t the only arena Daniel has championed. Daniel decided that though life serving in a military uniform was over he could wear another kind of uniform and help those around him. So Daniel joined the Northern Ontario School of Medicine to become a doctor.

“I’ve always been interested in health and fitness. I had the idea early in my military career about going back to school to become a physiotherapist or physician. The thought of going to university was intimidating back then. However, I very much enjoyed the military and did not give another thought about higher education until after my injury.

“I was inspired by people I met competing as a Paralympic rower. We always had amazing medical staff while I was competing, and the idea of becoming a sports doctor really appealed to me. I also had a friend from my days as a paratrooper, who was in medical school, and helped me with my application to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine,” said Daniel.

Daniel graduated earlier this year as valedictorian and is now doing his Family Medicine Residency in Sudbury.

Daniel is a voice of hope to veterans suffering from operational stress injuries and encourages those that are new to this battle that the fight can be won.

“OSI is a difficult injury to overcome. Sometimes things in life can seem overwhelming and all hope for the future is lost. Thankfully, these feeling and thoughts are often short lived. Everyone who joins the military has the ‘will to fight’. Reflecting on that warrior spirit is a way to realize that you can battle OSI. I often view a disability as something to conquer. It is a daily struggle and not without its hardships, but at the end of the day when I look at what I’ve accomplished, I realize that it is the warrior spirit that gets me over the hurdles. I feel that anyone who has the courage to serve in the Armed Forces has the innate ability to battle OSI. Sometimes it can be as simple as remembering who we were as our younger selves- warriors. OSI may be the toughest battle an individual has to overcome in life, but it is a battle that can be won,” noted Daniel.

The Army Run Pasta Dinner will be held on Sept. 19 with an expected attendance of more than 600 guests. Daniel is honoured to be the chosen guest speaker of this year’s dinner.

“I’m deeply honoured to be an invited speaker at this year’s Army Run. I look forward to reuniting with old friends and sharing the story of how I benefited from the CF Soldier On program,” said Daniel.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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